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Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

292                     THE EGYPTIAN PROBLEM                 CHAP.
*
of the fellaheen masses is as closely bound up as those .on which Lord Cromer wisely concentrated the efforts of British control during the early years of tRe Occupation. The fellaheen population as a whole has benefited greatly by the enormous rise in the value of agricultural land and of the products of the land which constitute the chief wealth of the country. But there are rocks ahead. The big landlords are usually absentee landlords, and of these the number and the wealth have increased suddenly and dangerously. For though a very laage proportion *o£ the fellaheen themselves own some land, it is often only a few feddans, and like those who own no land of their own, they try to rent as much as they can possibly afford from their more fortunate neighbours, and these have taken advantage of recent conditions to impose extortionate rents. There arc many landowners who lease out part of their land to-day for a larger annual rent per fccldan than the fecldan cost them to buy twenty yearn ago. Land hunger is as strong a passion amongst the* Egyptian as amongst any peasantry in the world, and the peculiar climatic conditions of the* valley of the Nile limit the* cultivable area to the area of possible, irrigation, whieh cannot be indefinitely extended. The State still owns a relatively small remnant of the old Khedivia.,1 lands handed over to it in the course of I he, great financial liquidation in the clays of Ismail, ami, instead of putting them tip for auction, whieh usually means handing them over to the already plethoiie landlords, facilities might he given to the small landowners and landless frlhihrt-n to purchase; at reasonable rates. But that in only a very partial remedy, legislation will almost certainly he. needed to protect the small man against I lie givrd of tlw big raekrenters and to place land ivntals on some rra^on-able basin of fixity. Tin* land tax itself no longer IMMFH any appreciable relation to the enormous appreciation in the value* of land since the la-st assessment. The n-nting value of agricultural land in Kgypt wan then <*Mimat<*<i at £17,000,000. it may now hi* ot limited at rinse cmhe almost   uninterrupted  expansion  of  Egyptian  revenue which has been going on since the early years of the